The manager dilemma…

It was amazing to see Alex Ferguson speaking to the Old Trafford crowd after his final home game in charge of Manchester United on Sunday evening. Praising the fans, players and coaching staff, he declared that everyone now had to stand by ‘our’ new manager in David Moyes.

I’ve seen and heard a lot of discussion about the appointment in recent days (Moyes hasn’t won any trophies v Moyes ‘understands’ the Manchester United way), but the reality is that only time will tell how successful he will be.

On that front, I was surprised (and in agreement) to see Moyes being given a six-year deal at his future club. It was an important statement from United – this guy is going to get the time he needs to do things his way.

Of everything I’ve read about Fergie in the past few days, a piece entitled: ‘Sir Alex Ferguson: the eulogy, the apology and the thank you’ by The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor really stood out from the rest in terms of painting a rather different side to the Scot.

I’m not a Man Utd fan, so for me Ferguson has always been the man whose teams keep winning while all around falter (and then change manager!).

It’s an amazing statistic that Chelsea have had 18 different managers in the time that Fergie has been at Old Trafford – ten alone since the arrival of owner Roman Abramovich (Ranieri, Mourinho, Grant, Scolari, Wilkins, Hiddink, Ancelotti, Villas-Boards, Di Matteo and Benitez), with another most likely on the way in the summer.

It seems a common thing in football to look at the manager’s position when a club enters choppy waters. They are the public face of their football clubs in many ways but there are a lot of different factors that need to be considered in the complicated formula of success, and managers are too often the ones to fall on swords in times of trouble.

Consider the situation at Wolves as another example. Dean Saunders survived just 20 games in charge of the club’s senior squad, having joined Doncaster Rovers in January. The League One side is now seeking its fifth permanent manager in less than 15 months, having sacked Mick McCarthy last February. When is that particular merry-go-round going to end and I haven’t even mentioned Blackburn Rovers…

In the midst of all the ‘shock’ about Fergie, there was one opinion I really did agree with – that of Spanish football writer Guillem Balague (below).

Screen shot 2013-05-12 at 21.08.43

All too frequently managers get too much credit when they simply couldn’t function without a coaching team, club staff and supporters around them. Equally, they are singled out for criticism when there are always other factors to consider.

A football club (or national team) needs to have its priorities and objectives in order – and recruit on that basis. Giovanni Trapattoni was hired to get results and see the Rep. of Ireland senior team qualify for international tournaments, and that’s what he has done.

If club owners and football associations were clearer about their actual expectations and targets, perhaps there would be greater understanding of how well (or not) managers were actually doing?


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